Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer Supports Entrepreneurs in Colombia

Entrepreneur, José, experiments with diversified crops  and
environmentally friendly management practices on his dairy farm
In Boyacá, Colombia, Servicio National de Aprendizaje (SENA) supports an entrepreneur program that matches business advisors with young entrepreneurs interested in developing their own small business. The advisor assists the entrepreneurs in creating a business plan, trains them in basic accounting, and provides follow-up and support over a course of three years. To complement this program, SENA requested a Partners of the Americas Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer to provide additional technical assistance to the entrepreneurs and their advisors.

From June 21 to July 5, 2014, Margaret Morse, traveled to Boyacá as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer to assess the current agribusiness-specific strategies of the entrepreneurs and provide recommendations on ways to strengthen their businesses and take advantage of potential niche market opportunities. The agribusinesses ranged from the production of blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits to livestock and cheese production. Margaret describes the work of one of these entrepreneurs' projects:

Blueberries in Piapa (from Margaret's trip report)

A new project raising blueberries in Piapa (a new crop for the area) involving a woman named Mrs. Baez and her mentor, instructor, and advisor, Romula Carmango, was in its second year. Romula has done extensive research on the variety Biloxi, a southern highbush blueberry, and its cultivation in that area. Working with Romula, we discussed the general requirements to manage a blueberry farm, specifically for Biloxi. After discussing the techniques used for raising blueberries, we also discussed the cultural aspects of planting in partial shade, fertilization, pruning, pest management, and disease control. 

Reflections on her assignment:

Margaret states: “What a joy there is teaching in the tropics where fruit is abundant, the weather is warm but not oppressive, and the people are filled with enthusiasm and curiosity.  It was a pleasure to work with SENA in the Boyacá region of Colombia.

Workshop on raising southern highbush blueberries
The program with which I was participating was designed to educate young entrepreneurs in rural communities on business development opportunities within a variety of agricultural sectors. As a result of this assignment, a new generation of farmers will hopefully be able to develop businesses within their rural communities instead of fleeing to the big cities in pursuit of better jobs and income.

The classes were filled with instructors [advisors] with marvelous ideas about agri-tourism and value-added products for potential enterprises.  Their questions aimed at turning information into material relevant to their students in the areas of production, marketing, record keeping, etc.  Any teacher would have been delighted to work in this environment charged with sharp questions and enthusiasm. The combination of ongoing technical assistance and business management is a very good approach to sustaining the entrepreneurs and their new businesses.”

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